What You Can Assume About A Disabled Person

1)  Nothing
2)  Nothing else
3)  Not that either
4)  They are real people with real problems

The word ‘disabled’ carries a certain stigma.  I should know.  People don’t react well to the word.  Adjectives commonly springing to mind are helpless, burden, useless, crippled, and unworthy.  That is an incredibly narrow view of things.

Are there people with disabilities so severe that they are unable to function without 24-hour assistance?  Yes.  But there are also many people who are just unable to work, even though there is nothing they would like more.  Working provides a sense of pride and self-worth that just can’t be duplicated by medicine, therapy, or good intentions.  Whether paid or volunteer, most disabled folk would give anything to be a part of a community and contribute to the common good.

It can be very disappointing, even heartbreaking, to be discounted as a person with value simply because a job isn’t something you can handle just now.  Just because someone can’t join you on your morning run doesn’t mean that they don’t want to.  While there are some disabilities that engender bitter resentment towards others, for the most part a disabled person wants to be valued for what they can still offer.  Love, education, intelligence, guidance, support both moral and emotional… these are all things that a disabled person understands better than any healthy person because they are the same gifts others are not giving them.

Experience generates knowedge, but only suffering generates wisdom.  Don’t discount someone’s potential contribution to the world based on their limitations.  Instead, see how their situation has taught them about things that really matter.  And always remember, not every disability is visible from the outside.  There are so many invisible illnesses and they are capable of devastating lives.  So the next time you ask what someone does for a living and they have the courage to admit they are not working because of a disability, please have enough courage to allow them into your life as far as you would anyone else.  Unless they are assholes, every demographic has some and you want to steer clear.

See people for WHO they are, not WHAT they are.

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